James Nelson Anderson passed away peacefully March 13, 2015. The child of Stanley and Margaret Anderson, he was born in Burbank, and grew up in Glendale, CA. Regular hiking and camping trips with his brothers in the Sierras instilled in him a deep love of nature, the environment, and animals. He actively served in the US Marines from 1952-54, and retired from the Marine Reserves as a Major in 1965. His Marine Corps service inspired a lifelong curiosity and passion for exploring other cultures, and influenced his decision to become an anthropologist.
Dr. Anderson was a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at UC Berkeley, 1964-1995. An early proponent of environmental anthropology, he focused on ways in which people of Southeast Asia lived successfully within their environments, long before the term sustainability had been coined. In his own work, he documented traditional medicines, plant use, and home gardens in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and investigated population and migration patterns from Southeast Asia in a globalizing world. He also nurtured and mentored generations of scholars and advocates who continue to work on addressing environmental crises, human rights, and social justice.
Prof. Anderson had a passion for teaching and his students loved him; many have said his mentorship and model of environmental stewardship changed their lives. On a personal level, he was a deeply devoted, loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He brought his wife and daughters on multi-year field trips to Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines; these experiences living in other cultures proved deeply formative. He was an avid traveler, keen gardener, talented cook, and dedicated Cal football fan.
Dr. Anderson is survived by his wife, Dr. Emerald Balboa Anderson, his daughters Victoria, Pia, and Rica and their spouses, his granddaughter Tamsin, his brother Gene, his cousins Zosimo and Loretta de Veas, and many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations in his name to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, or the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.
A Tribute to Professor Emeritus James Anderson from Faculty member Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Professor emeritus, James (Jim) Anderson was a modest man who worked quietly and steadily behind the scenes in developing two of the most important late 20th century subfields of anthropology: human ecology/environmental anthropology and medical anthropology. In his classic, anticipatory article,"Ecological Anthropology and Anthropological Ecology, published in the Handbook of Social and Cultural Anthropology,1973: 477-497, Jim Anderson succinctly defined a new and urgent challenge for the field of anthropology. He challenged fellow anthropologists to apply the discipline's embrace of a holistic, systemic and dynamic ethos to questions of human-environmental relations and impact. He believed that a holistic ecological anthropology could produce transformative insights capable of improving the bio-cultural, economic and social realities of life on this planet. He envisioned an applied medical-ecological anthropology that could rethink human environmental relationship in order to address the deadly problems that threatened human and planetary survival. Working together with the late George Foster (UC Berkeley), the late Fred Dunn (UCSF, physician and anthropologist) and the late Margaret Clark (UCSF) Jim Anderson developed a paradigm of bio-evolutionary, bio-cultural, ecological medical anthropology that was a core dimension in the founding of the Joint UC Berkeley-UCSF Graduate Degree Program in Medical Anthropology, the first such program in the United States and the world. In the early 1970s when Anderson was a developing his ideas he was responding to the radical social movements on behalf of undocumented farm worker rights in California, the grape boycott, black power and red power. He realized the necessity for cultural anthropologists to go beyond their particularistic studies of small groups of people to develop methods and theories that could cross-sect the adaptations of diverse populations. Anderson's vision of a local-global, planetary ecological anthropology was truly revolutionary.
-Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Professor of Medical Anthropology